Less than a week removed from receiving a vote of confidence from his boss, Virginia Coach Mike London was compelled to defend his job status in the wake of another disappointing defeat Monday.
During his weekly news conference, just two days after the Cavaliers lost their fourth straight game by blowing a 22-0 lead against Duke, London addressed his detractors when asked about Athletic Director Craig Littlepage’s announcement that he would be back as head coach next season.
“I believe that I’m the right man for the job,” London said. “I believe that the process that’s going on here, while painstakingly slow, is a process that will be successful. I’m very appreciative that administrators and people that make those type of decisions have the utmost confidence in me. I’m 100 percent committed to winning and producing a product on the field of guys who want to win....
“I know how to win, and...whether there’s negativity or whatever it may be, it’s embrace the adversity. Embrace it, look it in the eye, and tell the guys: ‘Let’s go.’”
The Cavaliers enter their homecoming game against Georgia Tech this weekend on the same sort of midseason swoon that derailed their 2012 campaign, and four of the five teams remaining on the schedule currently have an above .500 record. Virginia would need to win four of its last five games to qualify for a bowl game.
London signed a two-year extension after leading the Cavaliers to the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl, and his contract runs through the 2016 season. He has a record of 18-26 since taking over at Virginia before the 2010 season, although it includes a 4-15 mark in his last 19 games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
If Virginia were to fire London after this season, the school would owe him approximately $8.06 million. The four assistants hired this offseason — associate head coach Tom O’Brien, offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta and special teams coordinator Larry Lewis — would cost an additional $3.12 million to buy out this year.
But players who spoke with reporters Monday said London has not lost the locker room.
“He’s the most passionate man I know,” offensive lineman Conner Davis said. “Every day he’s out there trying to not only get the team better, but as a group, not letting anyone let go of themselves and not let anybody fall away from the team. He’s out there yelling, being himself...enthusiastic. After the games, he’s always telling us he’s not gonna let us down. We just gotta stick together as a team.”
Added safety Anthony Harris: “He’s just trying to figure our team out, see where we can make adjustments. We just got to find a way to get these close games.”
Virginia’s past two defeats have come in excruciating fashion. The Cavaliers watched a last-second field goal sail wide right in a 27-26 loss at Maryland two weeks ago and then gave up 35 unanswered points after a fast start against Duke. They have now lost five of the past six years to the Blue Devils.
London, though, remains adamant that all is not lost on this season.
“We are committed to winning. No one wants to win more than I do being here,” he said.